5 Essential Boating Knots & How to Tie Them
Knowing how to tie knots has been an essential skill for all boaters since boating came into existence.
Today there are countless boating knots, hitches, lashings and bindings, which can be overwhelming to novice boaters. However, unless you’re embarking on a career as a professional sailor, you’ll only ever need to know how to tie a handful of knots.
If you’re new to boating, you should know some basic boating knot terms before you master the most essential knot types. Here are 5 essential boater’s knots and how to tie them.
A cleat hitch is also easy to untie and release, even with the line under a load.
1. Take the working end of the rope and run it around the farthest horn of the cleat before running the rope around the nearest horn of the cleat.
2. After the rope has run around the nearest horn, run it over the top of the cleat to the underside of the horn on the farthest side, then run it back over the cleat to the underside of the nearest horn to form a figure 8.
3. As the rope returns to the nearest horn, make an underhand loop in the working end of the rope, hook the loop over the horn and pull it tight.
4. Once finished, the working end should be at the opposite end of the cleat to the standing part.
NOTE: If the rope is likely to be heavily loaded, it may be necessary to make more than one figure 8.
Boating Knot Type 2: Reef Knot
Also called a square knot, this is the first boating knot many boaters learn how to tie. It’s excellent for tying the working and standing ends of a piece of rope together to secure an object.
A reef knot can also be used for tying two pieces of rope together, although this is not encouraged because the knot can slip and come undone.
When tying the two ends of a single line:
1. Cross the working end of the rope over the standing end of the rope, then under it and over it again.
2. Turn the working and standing ends to face one another, then repeat the first step, with the working end going over, under and over again.
3. Pull the working end and the standing end to tighten the knot.
When tying two lines together:
1. Cross the working end of rope A over the working end of rope B, then under it and then over it again.
2. Turn both working ends to face one another and repeat the first step, with working end A going over, under and over again.
3. Pull both the working ends to tighten the knot.
Boating Knot Type 3: Clove Hitch
Also called a double hitch, this knot is very practical because of the speed with which it can be tied and untied.
Clove hitches are the go-to knot for tying fenders to rails and lifelines.
1. Wrap the working end once around the object the rope is being tied to.
2. Cross the working end over the rope and wrap it a second time around the object in a figure 8.
3. Run the working end under the second wrap and pull it to tighten the knot.
Boating Knot Type 4: Sheet Bend
A sheet bend can tie two lines together, even if the two lines are of differing thicknesses. It’s better than a reef knot at tying lines together, and easier to untie.
When joining two lines of differing thickness, the thicker line is always used as rope A.
1. Use the working end of rope A to form a bight.
2. Form an underhand loop in rope B by running the working end of rope B up from below the bight and across over the top of the bight.
3. Wrap the working end of rope B around the back of the bight and pass it back under itself to complete the underhand loop. Pull the knot tight.
Boating Knot Type 5: Bowline
Widely considered the gold standard of boater’s knots, the bowline creates a fixed loop at the end of a line that won’t slip or run (unless pulled from the side).
The bowline knot is also easy to untie even after the line has been heavily loaded.
1. Use the working end of a line to make an overhand loop.
2. Form a rounded bight. This will be the finished loop, so allow enough line for the size of loop you want to make.
3. Run the working end up through the overhand loop.
4. Wrap the working end behind the standing end of the rope and back down through the overhand loop. Pull the knot tight.
Learning How to Tie Boating Knots
The knots on this list are considered the 5 most basic and essential boating knots every mariner from beginner to pro should know.
It’s always good to start with the basics, then learn the more complicated stuff as you gain more boating experience. Practice and learn how to tie these basic knots and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a trusted, reliable and safe boater!